Chapter Seven

	Al was twice as upset as Sam, but when it came to showing his pain, he was
also twice as stoic.  Sam's gesture, although a futile attempt, still helped
to make him feel at least one person in the world, even if he was lost in
time, cared.  He saw that the Leaper was in tears, and recalling the initial
change in the timeline, when he had suddenly found himself in Beth's arms, he
realized how much that had meant to Sam, who had actually requested his
destination in order to put right the biggest wrong in his friend's life.  It
was like a wonderful thank-you present for everything Al had done.  It was the
only way Sam could possibly pay him back.  "Oh, Al," he muttered, once more,
through his tears.  "What _happened?_  I thought . . . I thought . . . "  His
voice trailed off again, and Al was fairly sure he knew what Sam was trying to
say: I thought I'd put everything right for you.  I'm so sorry I let you down.
	"Yeah.  I know, Sam."  His deep, dark, nearly perpetually pained eyes spoke
volumes.  "It's just . . . well, Beth thinks I don't care about her because I
spend all of my time at the Project.  And worse than that, she wants full
custody of my youngest daughter Trudy Danielle.  She's fifteen.  Beth thinks I
haven't been a good father to her because I'm always gone.  Trudy's visiting
me right now for spring break, and for all I know, it's the last time I'm
going to see her.  Look . . . do you mind if I go spend some time with her
while you get your rest?"  He opened the glowing Door to the Imaging Chamber
and waited for Sam's inevitable 'yes.'
	"I'll be fine," Sam said, "as long as Ziggy agrees that nothing's going to
happen while I'm asleep.  Even if there is, I can handle it if you just give
me a little warning.  You need to spend some time with your daughter."
[Because it wasn't good enough,] the Leaper mourned.  [I had my chance, but I
blew it somehow.]  Why was it that no matter how hard he tried, things never
worked out the way he wanted them to?  When he wanted to return home, he never
did.  When he wanted to Leap to put right a major wrong in Al's life, that
didn't work either.  There was no middle ground.
	Al tapped at the handlink, and reported that there didn't appear to be any
problems.  "But you watch your back, Sam, because that isn't a 100 percent
guarantee, much as I'd like to hope it is.  Bye, Sam."  And with a wave, Al
vanished from Sam's sight.  [Oh, I wish I could do something for you,] Sam
thought, despairing.  [But I don't know what I could possibly do from here.]

	Trudy Danielle Calavicci knew better than anyone, even her own mother, she'd
decided, just how terribly upset Al was over everything.  Both their lives
were coming apart.  She'd been particularly close to him for as long as she
could remember, and she had made up her mind that she was not going to go with
her mother if she tried to drag her away from him.  Although she only saw Al
when she was off from school, she took it as the best of military kids do, and
accepted it as a fact of life.  Her mother's accusations that he'd been
neglecting Trudy Danielle were ridiculous.  She got the feeling Beth was doing
it out of spite at him because she thought he was neglecting _her_, which
Trudy Danielle thought was equally ridiculous.
	She remembered something her older sister Anita had told her before she left
for college: "Don't let anyone yank you around, Trudy.  Because a lot of
people are going to try, and you've got to stand up to them."  Of course,
neither 'Nita nor she would have ever anticipated this, but as far as she was
concerned, the advice still applied.  Because even if Trudy Danielle was the
baby of the family, she _was_ a Calavicci, and she wasn't about to let anybody
mess with her, whether they happened to be a lawyer, a judge, or even her own
mother.  If staying with her father meant remaining at the Project, she would
do that.  She wouldn't be the only one; there were Mike and Rowan Warshinskiy,
and Leon Basquez.  Right now, she needed to find Al and make sure he knew
where she stood.  She also realized that she was going to have to break it to
her mother sometime soon, which she would be best off to do without Al
present, lest she try to make a case that Al had coerced her into it, which
couldn't be further from the truth, although she was sure he would applaud her
	The admiral's daughter left her father's private quarters and made her way
down the hall in the direction of the Control Room where she had gathered
through careful eavesdropping the 'brains' of the parallel-hybrid
supercomputer named Ziggy resided.  She'd tried to talk to Ziggy once, but it
seemed that 'she,' as everyone referred to her, was not permitted to speak to
anyone who was not Project staff.  Trudy Danielle had also overheard that
Quantum Leap had something to do with time travel and that Al played an
instrumental part in that.  As she understood it, he could not risk taking off
from work except on rare occasions or he would leave the time-traveler, Dr.
Samuel Beckett, the Project Director, stranded.  Maybe if she could figure out
what would be best to study, she could get an official slot at Project Quantum
Leap after she got out of college if things didn't work out for her and Dad.
After all, by that time she'd be an adult, and no one could stop her from
doing that.
	Halfway to the Control Room, she encountered a beautiful young woman whose
hair was drawn back into a ponytail, except for one streak of premature grey
that started at her right temple and hung in her face no matter how she tried
to rearrange it.  "Hey, where are you going?" the woman inquired.  "And who
are you, anyway?"
	"Oh, geez," Trudy Danielle muttered, suddenly realizing what her
impulsiveness had gotten her into.  Every detail she had managed to glean
about the Project was classified, after all.  She felt an awful pit in her
stomach.  "I'm not supposed to be down here, am I?  I was just looking for my
dad.  Admiral Calavicci," she explained, realizing she was going to have to be
a little more specific.  "I'm Trudy Danielle."
	The woman glanced at her watch, which Trudy Danielle noticed was not set to
the same time as the rest of the Project.  According to her watch, it was ten
thirty at night, but Trudy Danielle knew it was around one in the afternoon.
She figured it had something to do with the time travel aspect of the Project.
"Well, he ought to be finished pretty soon if all goes well.  If you ever need
to see him, just ask me next time," came the gentle admonition.  She got the
distinct feeling that she was being let off easy.  "I'm Dr. Fuller, and I
usually have a pretty good idea of what he's up to.  I'll just tell him you
asked about him."  She winked and headed back to the Control Room.
	Trudy Danielle returned to the Calaviccis' quarters and breathed a sigh of
relief that Dr. Fuller had been so understanding.  A few minutes later, her
father walked in looking positively haggard.  She carefully avoided mentioning
the fact that she knew he was operating in an entirely different time zone, so
to speak, than the rest of New Mexico.  "Is everything all right?" she asked.
	Al sighed.  "Well, I've had a long day.  And . . . and . . . "  At that point
all of the pent-up emotions he would not release earlier to protect the
Leaper's confidence escaped, and Al found himself crying, a very unaccustomed
display even around his own family.
	She didn't know what she ought to say, having almost never seen her father so
upset in her life.  Instead, she was able to give Al the embrace that Sam
could not, which seemed to do some good for him.  She decided that she had
better give him her decision now before she started having second thoughts.
"Oh, Dad . . . I want to stay here, with you.  I could stay at the Project,
just like the Warshinskiys' kids.  It would work, just give it a chance."
Mrs. Warshinskiy home-schooled Mike and Rowan, who were both just a little
younger than Trudy Danielle; the former was thirteen, and the latter was
	In a perfect world, that was exactly what Al would do.  [Of course, if it
were a perfect world, Beth wouldn't be doing this to me in the first place!]
Al raged, but tried to keep his anger in check, because Sam had done the best
he could.  "Well, with my schedule, it would be hard.  But it could work, if
you were willing to stay with someone else when I'm at work; I can't predict
my hours.  Maybe Mrs. Warshinskiy could spare the time.  I'd have to see."  He
paused, an ominous thought growing in his mind.  "Have you talked to your
mother about this?"
	"No," Trudy Danielle replied.  "She's gonna go berserk, and I'm afraid to
talk to her.  I don't want to hurt her.  I mean, she's my mother.  But _she's_
hurting _me_ by trying to do this to me . . . to the both of us.  It's not
fair.  But Mom can't take me from you if I don't want to go, can she?  Can
she?" Al's daughter whispered.
	"Well . . . "  Al thought carefully about how to phrase this, "you're old
enough to where the judge is going to want to hear what you have to say.  But
if he believes your mother, then it's not going to matter what either of us
say.  I'm not trying to be harsh, Trudy Dann.  I just want you to know what
we're up against.  I'll do what I can.  And you have to be ready to be strong,
too.  But we are Calaviccis, and we don't go down without a fight, isn't that
right?"  He was trying to sound inspiring, but deep inside, he was afraid that
he was giving her a false hope to cling to.  And yet he found that he, too,
was hanging onto the very same thread.  
	He was not going to lose anyone else dear to him: first his sister in whose
memory Trudy Danielle was named, then his father to cancer, his friend Chip
Ferguson over Vietnam to an anti-aircraft missile, Sam to quantum Leaping (but
at least Al could talk to him), and now Beth was leaving him too, the very
same Beth that Sam had Leaped especially to bring back to him.  Of course, Sam
could not be blamed.  It was as if he were cursed anyone who got close to him
would automatically be taken away from him.  But then, a curse could be
broken.  At last, Admiral Al Calavicci resolved that he would not allow this
to go any further.  He wasn't going to let God or Time or Fate or Whoever win
this time.